Recently, I had the good fortune to attend a day long elder abuse training workshop. There were 4 speakers presenting three separate modules. Some of it was familiar, some of it was new, a lot of it was very entertaining thanks to funny speaker at the end! I took some notes so that I could pass some information along. The following information is from Judith Wahl who works for the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.
At one point she asked the audience a question; “Would you respond differently to a younger woman being abused than an older woman being abused?”
In the broadest sense, elder abuse is the mistreatment of a senior or older person by someone they should be able to rely on or trust. Many times, they are someone who is in a position of authority and will often take advantage of that position or of the relationship associated with that position. Elder abuse can be an individual thing between an abuser and a victim or it can be a systemic thing that comes from policies and procedures enforced by well-meaning care facilities. Some people have full intentions of trying to take advantage of a senior (telephone and email frauds are a great example) and some people start out with good intentions but things go badly quickly (overwhelmed caregivers, power of attorney that took some money to pay bills with the intent to pay it back…).
While there are very few criminal charges associated with elder abuse, the reality is that not all cases are appropriate for criminal court. In some cases, the most productive avenue might be advocacy for the senior however how to go about achieving this is often a mystery to seniors and caregivers alike.
Law enforcement officials say that financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse they are dealing with these days. Coincidentally, the most common inquiry by seniors to the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly is concerns about financial abuse.
Our current system is deeply flawed, not easily understood, stressful, confusing and overwhelming. There is so much misinformation about rights and responsibilities given out and no clear avenue to seek clarification that sometimes you have to learn about the system by going through it yourself.
Some important points to keep in mind;
- Just because it’s not labeled as elder abuse, it doesn’t mean that’s not what is happening. Elder abuse is often mislabeled since it can be difficult to detect.
- Elder abuse is not only just between a two people, it can sometimes happen within ‘systems’. This usually happens when the law is not being followed
- Sometimes elder abuse is a result of misinformation about rights and responsibilities that are given out by others. Know what your rights are – learn what they are for the seniors you are taking care of and working with.
- Sometimes abuse of power and undue influence result in elder abuse. The speaker had a lovely story about her mom who brought the Power of Attorney document into the bank so that the daughter (the speaker) could assist her with her banking. The bank refused to accept this woman’s power of attorney and refused to let up until she signed the bank’s power of attorney document, giving the bank control of her money. The bank is a business. While the tellers may be looking out for their customers in some banks, at the end of the day, they’re there to make money. They should check out someone’s power of attorney document and make sure it is legitimate but to corner someone and refuse to let up until they sign a new form giving them control? Not okay.
I know with my mother-in-law, every single system and person we dealt with tried to get access and control of her money. It was a never-ending stream of sometimes well-meaning, sometimes greedy individuals or businesses trying to take over. It’s no wonder financial abuse is so prevalent. Everyone seems to feel it’s their right.
For more information, please visit; http://www.advocacycentreelderly.org/